It could almost be the plot of the follow up to Dan Brown's Church-and-conspiracy cliffhanger The Da Vinci Code. Mixing intrigue, international politics and not one but two shadowy Catholic organisations working hand-in-hand as part of a conspiracy to take over an organ of government, the book would surely be a bestseller or even a Hollywood film.
The unlikely setting for this tale of suspense might be the rather sedate world of canals and inland waterways but instead of the glamour of Venice, the story centres on Enniskillen a town described as the 'Venice of the north' as often as Venice has been described as the 'Enniskillen of Italy'.
Using parliamentary privilege, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird of Artigarvan has announced that control of north-south body Waterways Ireland lies in the hands of the lay Catholic group the Knights of St Columbanus and Opus Dei.
"It is widely believed by members of staff in Waterways Ireland and by those who are on the periphery that the organisation is now being run by the Knights of Columbanus, even with the support of an organisation called Opus Dei," he told the House of Lords on Monday.
Lord Laird a consistent critic of the Waterways Ireland management team was speaking during a debate on the legislation to allow the Stormont assembly to reconvene next week.
Describing the cross-border body, a product of the Good Friday Agreement, as "out of control", Lord Laird said he had "indicated previously that a litany of problems exists at Waterways Ireland, including bullying, appointments on a religious and/or political basis, the rewriting of reports and even the proposed move of its headquarters to the Irish Republic".
He proposed an amendment, which was defeated, that the British government should be more involved in "the oversight of what is going on here".
Lord Laird last night (Wednesday) explained why he made the allegations about the Catholic groups, saying that when he was making private enquiries about Waterways Ireland he kept being told: "It's to do with the knights."
"I thought at first they meant something that happened on a Thursday night but I soon learnt it was the Knights of Columbanus, although I know nothing about them or Opus Dei," he said.
A Waterways Ireland spokeswoman last night said it wanted to make no comment on Lord Laird's remarks.
The Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columbanus, Paddy Byrne, said it was not involved in a masterplan to take over Waterways Ireland.
"Like Waterways Ireland we like to make waves, float boats and put out into the deep on both sides of the border and would wish to unite the people of Ireland in friendship, love and prayer not unlike Opus Dei really," Mr Byrne said.
"And you don't have to control any waterways to do that."
Opus Dei information officer in Ireland, Paul Harman, said the institution did not get involved "in anything to do with the professional work of members".
"Opus Dei could never get involved in Waterways Ireland or in anything that is not of a spiritual nature," he said.
The Order of the Knights of St Columbanus was founded in Belfast in 1915 by Father James O'Neill to "promote and foster the cause of the Catholic faith and Catholic education".
The knights are active in charity work in Ireland and overseas.
The organisation's headquarters are at Ely House in central Dublin.
Candidates for membership must be practising Catholic men over 21 years of age, who are nominated by existing members.
The knights aim to "maintain our country Christian in outlook, thought and action".
Opus Dei, which has about 84,000 members worldwide and 800 in Ireland, has most recently come to prominence through the institution's unflattering portrayal in The Da Vinci Code.
It describes its mission as helping "people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others and for improving society".